Group looking at 15,000 acres east of Greentown for project
A group of landowners in eastern Howard County is ready to tap into the renewable energy market – one that doesn’t involve growing corn or soybeans for fuel.
If plans and studies proceed with the needed results, 10,000 to 15,000 acres of land east of Greentown would be used for a wind farm that could produce 150 to 200 megawatts of electricity.
The area from Plevna to Hackleman in southern Grant County provides the right conditions for Horizon Wind Energy, the company the landowners have picked.
“We need open land, wind and transmission lines,” said Martin Culik, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy. “The wind resource maps have shown that area to be promising. We’re excited to start the project.”
A 200-megawatt field could provide electricity to nearly 66,000 homes, according to Laura Sheets, Duke Energy’s business relations manager in Kokomo.
“We figure that 1 megawatt powers approximately 330 average-size homes,” she said.
Duke has a contract with Orion Energy to purchase up to 100 megawatts of electricity from the project it will open in Benton County this spring.
“We’re looking to sell [electricity] to any utility in Indiana or out of state. We deal directly with utilities,” Culik said.
Power for a 200-megawatt project would come from approximately 100 turbines, he said.
Landowners involved in the project control approximately 10,000 to 15,000 acres, said Jan Hendrix, interim president of Kokomo-Howard County Development Corp.
“One of the attractions of Howard County is that the distribution lines are close,” she said of the electric grid that runs through that area.
Given 15,000 acres, Culik estimated there would be one turbine for every 150 acres.
“The key thing here is that there are setback requirements from homes, roads, water bodies and drainage ditches and grass waterways in fields,” he said. “We even have requirements placing turbines so they don’t interfere with radio signals.
“The other thing about the turbine layout is that the density is based on the size of turbines. The larger the turbine the more area is needed between turbines because of turbulence, or wake effect.”
The most important factor, however, will depend on the agricultural landowners and how they want turbines and access roads running across their property.
“One of the most important reasons why I supported Horizon is because the company understands the concerns of a farmer,” said Bryan Kirkpatrick, one of the landowners, said in the release announcing the wind farm. “When it comes to placing towers in a farmer’s field, the farmer is able to have input as to where the tower is placed in his field. The other companies did not offer the same flexibility of where towers would be placed or where drives and cables would be run. This is the most important issue.
“We feel Horizon Wind Energy is definitely more community-minded and community-friendly than any other company we interviewed.”
Culik noted that this is Day 1 in the process.
“Development takes three to five years before construction. The first thing we have to do is put up a meteorological tower to gather wind data,” he said. “There’s a lot of homework that needs to be done.”
For the project to move ahead, Horizon needs an average windspeed of 15 mph at the hub, or turbine, height, which can be anywhere from 200 to 300 feet above the ground.
The meteorological towers, which Culik hopes to have going up in the next two months, will be just under 200 feet tall with wind instruments at a number of elevations. Data will be sent via a cell-phone connection to Horizon offices for continuous monitoring.
After the decision to proceed is made, more studies are needed for subjects as various as noise, aviation, archaeological and engineering.
The project would benefit Howard County in a number of ways, Hendrix said.
“We’re looking at new capital investment in the county. We’re looking at a $500 million investment. Where the towers are place, there will be property taxes associated that Horizon will be responsible. So, there’s new tax base,” she explained. “It will bring new revenues to landowners and others in the development area.
“And the third thing, during the construction phase, there will be an economic impact because Horizon will use locals vendors as much as it can.”
It will also provide, in Howard County alone, approximately 20 news skilled jobs. For every 10 megawatts, it is estimated that one job will be created. Those employees would provide maintenance for the turbines.
The project could grow much larger, to as much as 400 megawatts, if it crosses into Grant County, Hendrix said.
By John Dempsey
Tribune business writer
18 March 2008
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